Opinion: Why DACA program needs a permanent replacement

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” For centuries, Emma Lazarus’ quote inscribed on the Statue of Liberty has welcomed immigrants into America.

Our country has granted approximately 800,000 so-called “Dreamers” protection under former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration policy. Enacted via executive order in August of 2012, the program shelters 222,795 young adults in California alone, more than any other state in the nation.

On Sept. 5, Attorney General Jefferson Sessions declared President Donald Trump’s intention to phase out DACA, leaving hundreds of thousands of young immigrants at risk of deportation.

Over subsequent weeks, the Trump administration’s stance on DACA flipped, and there have been conflicting bits of information from Trump and Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Charles Schumer regarding Trump’s willingness to discuss alternate Congressional legal action to create a more permanent solution to protect DACA recipients.

By recklessly dismantling a popular and effective program without suggesting a viable alternative, Trump has targeted young immigrants in a manner that is indefensible and unjust.

Critics claim that the program promotes unfair amnesty for undocumented people. There are many legitimate reasons to want to discourage illegal immigration, but DACA, which specifically deals with children brought to America when they were younger than 16 years old, is different.

These individuals were not old enough to be held accountable for their parents’ crime of illegally crossing.

Co-President of the Brentwood School Latino Student Alliance and senior Sophia H. said that children should not be held responsible for their parents’ actions or forced to return to their country of birth once after having made America their home.

DACA is not a handout; it offers a two-year deferral from deportation while requiring immigrants to meet a high bar to merit becoming a Dreamer. Recipients must either have completed high school, be enrolled in high school, serve in the armed services, or have received an honorable discharge. All Dreamers must have lived in the United States for five continuous years and pay a fee for their undocumented entry, and none are allowed to have a felony criminal conviction or significant misdemeanor.

In the absence of presidential leadership, Congress has an obligation to take charge and protect young immigrants. I contend that Dreamers deserve a more permanent solution and a more concrete path towards citizenship beyond a temporary deferral.

On Oct. 2, senators held initial hearings seeking to replace DACA with longer-term legislation. Many Republicans are seeking to link the new legislation to augmented border security, while Democrats appear resistant to additional security measures.

These details will need to be addressed, but at least we have started the conversation. Protecting a new generation of immigrant innovators and thinkers is vital to continued American success and strength.

California’s state government has also taken action in the wake of Sessions’ announcement, suing Trump’s administration and citing the uniquely harmful impact DACA’s revocation would have on California’s economy due to the multitude of DACA recipients currently residing within the state. And, on Sept. 17, the California legislature approved Senate Bill 54. Referred to as the “California Values Act” and a “Sanctuary State” bill, Senate Bill 54 discourages state and local law enforcement from sharing information about non-violent California residents with federal immigration agents.

America is a country of immigrants. DACA represents the best qualities of the American Dream. Regardless of one’s stance on immigration, the deportation of childhood immigrants is the wrong way to enforce our borders. Sending young adults who have built a life in America back to countries they no longer know or may not even remember is reprehensible.

Diversity is America’s greatest strength. DACA’s revocation is a slap in the face of the ideals that make America great.

1 thought on “Opinion: Why DACA program needs a permanent replacement

  1. As you point out the “D” of DACA means “deferred”. But DACA, as an executive order, is illegal — it would not have survived a court challenge because it suborns laws passed by Congress. Whether you think so or not, Trump actually is on your side in this matter. He gave Congress six months (far longer than a hard-nosed anti-immigration person would have) to pass a new law, or he would begin enforcing the laws currently on the books. For a nation which prides itself on the rule of law, this was the necessary path to take. A President who governs by Executive Order will quickly find that his greatest “accomplishments” can be dismantled in place by any successor, or by the Courts, for they are not grounded in any legislation passed by Congress, as is necessary under our Constitution. Indeed, when FDR created the infamous Executive Order 9066, sending many Japanese American Citizens into internment camps, Congress quickly passed legislation covering the President’s action, and a cowardly Court covered for him — a Court cowed by FDR’s “packing” threat — that if the Court did not rule as he desired, he would increase the size of the Court and add as many of his appointees as needed to obtain the result he desired. It took President Ford, years later, to rescind the EO 9066. The Democrats had the majority in Congress for the first two years of President Obama’s presidency; they could have passed any new immigration law they wished, and, like Obamacare, no Republican would have been needed to pass the legislation. That would have tied any future President’s hands; why didn’t they?

    Mr. Trump is forcing the issue, and is also using it to obtain that which he desires — funding for a border fence. That’s the kind of horse-trading that Presidents from Washington onward have done — promising to sign legislation that Congress wants in return for Congress passing legislation the President wants. If the Democrats truly want the Dreamers to stay, signing up for this should be a no-brainer.

    You can blame Trump all you want, but it doesn’t change the fact that he has said he will sign an “ACA” bill. He does understand the plight of the Dreamers and wants to give certainty to their lives — and a path to Citizenship.

    I’m a conservative, but I’ve always felt that those who come here intent on being good people in a new land — working hard, obeying our laws, paying the taxes they need to pay — these should have a path to citizenship. But key to having a sovereign nation is secure borders; those nations who fail to secure their borders will lose their identity and their sovereignty. Hungary knows this — and even Mexico knows this, for they brutally patrol their southern border and illegals caught crossing into Mexico are quickly reminded by the Federales that they should not be there.

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